The things he’ll do for an Oscar…
From some sick, twisted, and yet hilarious perspective, The Revenant could be seen as a parody of star Leonardo DiCaprio’s gross injustice at the hands of the all powerful Academy:
‘After being brutalised at the hands of something far bigger than him, Leonardo DiCaprio, against all odds, braves the cruel hand he’s been dealt in an effort to find redemption.‘
But alas, we return to The Revenant’s actual story (which itself is based on a true story), where ‘something far bigger’ is actually one big-ass-bear and Leonardo DiCaprio is a frontiersman named Hugh Glass in the early 18th century.
If the premise and promotional material up to this point have you feeling like The Revenant is your typical Oscar movie, it’s probably because it is. After all, this film is coming from the same director as last year’s Best Picture winner in Birdman, ‘one-take-extraordinaire’ Alejandro González Iñárritu.
In an alternate reality, after washing ashore, Jack Dawson seeks revenge against those that left him for dead following the events of ‘Titanic’…
Add in Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy (arguably two of the greatest male actors of this generation) and you’ve got a recipe for success.
And succeed The Revenant does. For the most part…
‘We’re going on a bear hunt…’
Firstly, some words of warning: This film is graphic. After all, its creators had to actively stress Leonardo DiCaprio does not get raped by a bear in it. The brutality throughout is uncomfortable enough, but made even more so by the shots of it. They’re as harsh, bare and unforgiving as the landscape surrounding the violence, and at times can be pretty difficult to… bear (Ok sorry that was way too easy and completely uncalle… actually you know what screw you this is my review and I can make as many ill-timed and cringe-worthy puns as I want!)
CGI animal ‘bares’ all in gripping performance
The odds Glass faces are incredible at the best of times and incredulous at the worst. Here is a man who gets pounded more in the space of one film than Rocky Balboa did in six (when I say six I refer to Creed as the sixth rather than Rocky V… because Rocky V didn’t happen).
If you’re willing to forgive the seemingly incomprehensible survival of Glass after certain events (a considerable fall off a horse the main culprit here), then you’ll be provided with a truly immersive cinema-going experience.
The landscape of the film itself also warrants mention. The piercing wind and howling animal cries in the distance arguably say more than DiCaprio’s character does in the entire film. What makes it seem like such a living, breathing landscape is the fact that, well… it is. Almost the entire film is shot with natural light, showcasing the freezing wilderness of Canada and Argentina (where the film was shot) in all of its snow-glazed glory. By the crew’s own admission, it wasn’t easy, but the end result is a film truly deserving of the description ‘hauntingly beautiful’.
A film as dialogue-sparse as The Revenant (much of the limited dialogue is in a different language altogether) demands impeccable performances from its characters, and it’s here The Revenant truly shines. DiCaprio says barely a word of English for the film’s majority, but his facial expressions (particularly his eyes, a dominant motif throughout) make for Pure Cinema in its… well… purest form.
DiCaprio stares longingly at the Oscar off-screen to the left
As mentioned previously, this film is rife with ‘Oscar moments’ (the little scenes they play as they announce the nominees), and if DiCaprio is ever to get his hands on that almost criminally elusive Oscar, this film is as good a vehicle as any for him to do it, as he makes the potentially laughable sight of a middle aged man crawling through snow a truly harrowing thing to behold.
Also warranting mention is Tom Hardy, who continues to display an innate ability to make viewers forget the actor and see only the character they’re playing. DiCaprio is, despite the tour de force he puts on, still Leonardo-freakin’-DiCaprio, but Hardy is ‘John Fitzgerald’, a man whose eyes make me want to join Glass in his suicidal quest rather than enter a starting contest with Fitzgerald.
Tom Hardy’s character is the… Bane of Hugh Glass’ existence
These two truly anchor the film, and if one gets nominated the other most certainly should.
All in all, The Revenant is one of those films you’ll soak up as you’re watching, knowing its two leads are pushing each other to their very limit, both in terms of the actual story, and their acting ability. It’s a film you’ll have to forgive sometimes for far-fetched instances of survival with its main character (remember, it’s ‘based‘ on a true story). But in the end it’s a film you’ll be captured and entranced by during its 156 minute runtime… and vow never to see again once you leave the cinema.
And it’s a case-in-point for the theory revenge truly is a dish best served cold.
THE REVENANT is out now in cinemas
Rating – 8.5 / 10
Directed by – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Stars – Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson